National Costume Of Scotland

Scotch brooch of silver, from Mr. Logan's work.

No rational doubt can exist of the great antiquity of the national costume of Scotland: that the chequered stuff which still forms it is the variously-coloured garment of the Gauls described by Diodorus, at one time the common habit of every Celtic tribe, but now abandoned by all their descendants except the hardy unsophisticated Gaelic mountaineer, is admitted, we believe, by every antiquary who has made public his opinion on the subject. But to the same extent that our credence is given to the fact is our wonder awakened that the existence of so peculiar a habit should have been passed unnoticed by every chronicler and traveller, whether native or foreign, for upwards of a thousand years ! Yet such is the case, as far as we have been able to discover. The Scots are first mentioned by Porphyry towards the end of the third century; they are noticed again by Ammianus Marcellinus in 360, and by Claudian in 390. Under the name of Caledonians, however, we have an account of them by Tacitus as early as the close of the first century; but he merely describes them in general terms as in a state of great barbarity.

Herodian, Xiphilin, and Isidore speak of them as naked savages, with stained or punctured bodies, wearing iron rings round their middles. Gildas describes the Scots and Picts of his time as having only a piece of cloth tied round the loins; and the whole host of Saxon, Norman, English, French, aye, and Scotch chroniclers, down to the fifteenth century, are silent respecting a costume which must have excited the curiosity of foreigners by its singularity, and constituted the pride of the natives from its antiquity.

Fordun, the historian of Scotland, who wrote in 1350, contents himself with describing the Highlanders as " of goodly person, but mis-shapen attireand Froissart, the minute and pictorial

Froissart, in his account of Edward III.'s expedition in 1326, merely tells us, that ten thousand pairs of old worn-out shoes, made of undressed leather, with the hair on, were left behind by the Scotch on that midnight retreat which baffled the English, and terminated the inglorious campaign.

The seals and monuments of the early kings and nobles of Scotland represent them armed and attired in the same fashion as their Anglo-Norman contemporaries. Illuminated MSS. afford us no assistance ; and Lesly, Buchanan, and Beaugne, all writers of the sixteenth century, bear the first unequivocal testimony to the existence and prevalence of a party-coloured garment in Scotland. To these three authors may be added the writer of a chronicle of the same date, preserved in Lord Somers's Tracts, who tells us, " the inhabitants of the Western Isles delighted to wear marled cloths, especially that have long stripes of sundry colours. Their predecessors used short mantles or plaids of various colours, sundry ways divided, and amongst some the custom is observed to this day; but for the most part now, they are brown, most near to the colour of the hadder (heather), to the effect when they lie among the hadder the bright colours of their plaids shall not betray them."

At the same time John Major, who wrote the history of his native country in Latin, merely remarks their being without stockings or covering for the legs, and wearing a cloak for an upper garment; and Lindsay of Piscottie, whose chronicle of Scotland, from 1437 to 1542, is in the vulgar tongue, says, " the other pairts northerne are full of mountaines, and very rude and homelie kynd of people doth inhabite, which is called the Reid-Shankis or Wyld Scotes. They be clothed with ane mantle, with ane schirt, faschioned after the Irisch manner, going bair-legged to the knee but not a word of the chequered pattern of these garments. Indeed, unless " faschioned after the Irisch manner " relates to their cut alone, he implies by that expression that the shirt or body-dress was the lent-croich, or large saffron-coloured shirt worn by the Irish of that day, and which Mr. Logan, in his ' History of the Gael,' informs us, but without quoting his authority, was actually worn by the Scotch Highlanders.1

The authentic portraits of royal and noble personages of Scotland engraved in Mr. Lodge's beautiful work, comprising those of the Regent Murray ; George Gordon, Marquis of Huntley ; Henry, Lord Darnley, King of Scotland; David Leslie, first Lord of Newark; James Hamilton, Earl of Arran; James Graham, Marquis of Montrose; Archibald Campbell, Marquis of Argyll; William Kerr, Earl of Lothian; John Leslie, Duke of Rothes, &c. &c., exhibit no trace of a national costume: and the painting of the Surrender of Mary, Queen of Scots, at Carberry Hill, en-1 History of the Gael, 2 vols. 8vo., London.

graved by Vertue, and representing the royal and confederated Scotch forces in battle array, appears equally destitute of any distinction of dress, though the banners of the respective leaders are scrupulously emblazoned, and the artist, one should suppose, could not have been ignorant of the existence of a national habit at that time in Scotland.*

There appears to us but one way of accounting for so strange a discrepancy. The striped and chequered " garb of old Gaul" must have fallen into disuse throughout the southern and most civilized portions of Scotland at a very early period, and its manufacture and wear have been confined to the Western Isles and the remotest retreats of the ancient Celtic population, from whence it may have been gradually re-adopted by the Highland clans during the seventeenth century, and its popularity increased by its assumption by Charles Edward, " the young chevalier," and the subsequent prohibitory statutes which the rebellion gave rise to.

But it is time for us to retrace our steps and examine more narrowly into the texture, form, and

• One of the earliest representations of a Highlander is to be found in Speed's maps of Scotland, published at the commencement of the seventeenth century. The figure has merely a chequered mantle flung over its shoulders, being, with that exception, perfectly naked. The Highland woman is wrapped in a similar cloth, which is drawn over her head as welL No great dependence can be placed upon their I fidelity.

manner of wearing this ancient and singular habit, which is identified throughout modern Europe with the name Scotland.

With all our aversion from speculation and jealousy of tradition we find ourselves in this instance without other guides, and must consequently either lay down our pen at once or follow them with it to the verge of probability. We have already stated that the earliest known authorities who allude to the chequered dress are of the sixteenth century. Heron, however, in his History of Scotland, says, that in Argyle and the Hebridse, before the middle of the fifteenth century, tartan was manufactured of one or two colours for the poor, more varied for the rich.

Now the word tartan is derived by Mr. Logan from the Gaelic tarstin or tarsuin, " acrossbut the French had the word tiretaine for a woollen cloth as early as the thirteenth century (vide p. 151), which generally appears to have been dyed of a whole colour, and originally scarlet; while the true Gaelic term for the Highland plaid or mantle is breacan-feile, literally the " chequered, striped or spotted covering," and, as we have already mentioned in the first chapter of this work, the parti-coloured cloth woven by the Gauls and Britons was by them called breach and brycan, from breac, speckled or spotted. The word tartan therefore, whatever may be its origin, is, we are inclined to believe, the name of the material itself,

• and not of the pattern it may be worked in.8 In a - wardrobe account of the time of James III. of Scotland, a.d. 1471, quoted by Mr. Logan, occurs , an entry of " an elne and ane halve of blue tartane to lyne his gowne of cloth of gold," and of" halve an elne of doble tartane to lyne collars to her lady the queneand iu 1485 our own Henry VIL displayed in Bosworth Field a banner of " yellow tarterne," on which was painted a dun cow. That, it was a stuff much used for banners as well as dresses in the fifteenth century appears evident from the order of Richard III. (in the document quoted page 267 of this work) for the furnishing of " 350 pensils (small streamers) of tarteryn," as well as the same number " of buckram," gonfanons " of fustian," standards and trumpet banners of sarcenet, &c., and it seems to have been superseded in modern days by the " bunting 99 of which our ship-colours and other flags are now made.4

8 j Tar&a, tarsin, and tarsna, is used for across, athwart, over, through, past *, and would apply to the crossing of threads in the weaving of any sort of cloth, and, with the exception of tarsnan, which signifies a cross-beam, the root tars pr tarty in all its combinations, expresses things which cross so minutely as to deceive the sense, as the spokes of a wheel in motion, light shining through glass, &c.

4 As these tartans are charged at the rate of nearly sixteen shillings per yard, they must have been of a superior texture to the common breachan worn by the Western Islanders and the peasantry of Argyleshire; the latter was the coarse homespun woollen cloth, and it is most probable that the former was that mixture of linen and woollen called linsey-woolsey by the English and tiretaine by the French to this day.

Mr. Logan informs us that woollen cloths " were first woven of one colour, or an intermixture of the natural black and white, so often seen in Scotland to the present day." And we may add, that it will be recognized by our readers as the stuff lately rendered fashionable for trousers, under the name of " shepherds' plaid." The introduction of several colours we have seen, however, dates from the earliest period of its manufacture; and it is asserted? both in Ireland and in Scotland, that the rank of the wearer was indicated by the number of colours in his dress, which were limited by law to seven for a king or chief, and four for the inferior nobility ;5 while, as we have already quoted from Heron, it was " made of one or two colours" (that is to say plain, or merely chequered with another colour) " for the poor." Of the superior breachans, Mr. Logan informs us, that green and black, with a red stripe, seems to have predominated; and an Italian MS. of the close of the fourteenth century, formerly in the library of his Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, ,'contauung a multitude of illuminations illustrative of Scripture history, the curtains of the tabernacle are repeatedly depicted of those identical colours disposed in the exact pattern of the modern tartan.

This variegated stuff was also called by the High* landers cath-dath, commonly translated, as Mr.

8 In the law of colours, the Ilbreachta of Tigheirnmas, mentioned in page 453 of this work.

Logan informs us, " war colour," but ingeniously rendered by a friend of that gentleman," the strife of colours," an etymology which has certainly the high merit of being as probable as it is poetical and characteristic. The epithet is exactly such as a Highland senachie would have applied to the splendid breachan of his chieftain.

The breachan or plaid, we are told by the same writer, was originally a large mantle of one piece, belted round the body, and thence called " the belted plaid;" and he seems to consider that it was also called the triughas or truis, the word being derived from the root tries, gather, truss or tuck up ; that it formed of itself the entire ancient dress, and that the latter appellation was transferred to the pantaloons and stockings joined, which were adopted on the prohibition of the ancient dress. But not only have we positive evidence of the truis forming a remarkable portion of the original Gaulish, British, and Irish dress, but Mr. Logan himself almost immediately afterwards proceeds to describe them as either knit like stockings, or, according to the ancient manner, formed of tartan cloth, nicely fitted to the shape, and fringed down the leg; adding that" there is preserved a Gaelic saying respecting this garmentby which the quantity of stuff required for its making may be ascertained. We must surely, therefore, be under some error in understanding him to deny the antiquity of the truis.

In support of his assertion, however, he quotes the historians Major and Lindsay, who describe the Highlanders as bare-legged from the knee, and instances the many curious expedients resorted to in the rebellion to evade wearing breeches according to the royal order, with the declaration of an old Highland farmer, that " he would never lippen to a bodach that wore the breeks." But their disuse by thelower classes,in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is no proof of their non-existence at a much earlier period; and if the truis were so much the object of their aversion and contempt, and not acknowledged a portion of their ancient national costume, how comes it that the young Pretender, who, during his romantic expedition into England, marched on foot from Carlisle to Derby in the Highland garb at the head of his forces, and had assumed that garb undoubtedly for the sake of flattering the prejudices of his Gaelic followers, should have worn the obnoxious articles, as he certainly did P Vide engraving given opposite, from a portrait of him in that identical costume.

Nay, more. If the truis are not parts of the ancient Highland dress, why are they named amongst the prohibited articles of apparel in the Act of 1747, quoted by Mr. Logan himself, and ordaining that " neither man nor boy, except such as should be employed as officers and soldiers, should, on any pretence, wear or put on the clothes commonly called Highland clothes, viz. the plaid, phillibeg or little kilt, trouze, shoulder-belts, or any part what soever of what peculiarly belongs to the Highland garb, and that no tartan or parti-coloured plaid li should be used for great coats or upper coats." J We copy the paragraph from Mr. Logan's own ; pages. The " breeks," attempted to be forced upon the nether limbs of the brawny Highlanders, were the Lowland and English knee-breeches of George II.'s reign, with all the buttons and buckles thereunto belonging.

Vogue Williams Cheltenham
Prince Charles Edward Stuart, from a portrait in the possession of Mr G. A. Williams, Cheltenham.

The phillibeg or kilt, in Gaelic, feile-beag, i. e. the " little covering," is another bone of contention amongst the writers on Celtic antiquities. At present it is a petticoat in the modern sense of the word, being a separate article of attire, and put on like a woman's petticoat; but originally, we have no doubt, it signified literally a " little coat," being the corresponding habit to the Irish cota^Jilleadth or fallingsand the British pais, which, with the mantle and the trousers,»formed the complete Gaulish or Celtic costume. Kilt is a lowland Scotch or Saxon appellation, and also signifies a shortened or tucked-up garment. " To kilt" is to truss or tuck up. The lassie says, in the well-known song,—

" I '11 kilt my coats aboon my knee, And follow my laddie through the water."

The period of the separation of the ancient feile- ' beag into a waistcoat and kilt is at present unknown; but we imagine it to have been a comparatively recent arrangement.

The sporan or pouch is a distinguishing feature of the Highland costume; but its first adoption, in its present peculiar and ornamented form, is equally involved in mystery. That of Simon Frazer, Lord Lovat, executed in 1746, is said by Mr. Logan to have been smaller and less decorated. A wallet, or dorlach, carried on the right side, was worn as early as the fourteenth century, as we have evidence, in fl Fillead, in Irish, is used to express a garment folded or plaited round the person, and julead-beg would signify the " lesser plaited dress."

the effigy of a knight in the cathedral church of Iona or Icolmkill ;7 and some such appendage to the girdle is of very early occurrence in the costume of most nations. The tasselled sporan is however more like the pouch of a North American Indian than the European gypsire or aulmoniere of the middle ages, and its position in front is an additional peculiarity.

Coverings for the head were little cared for by the hardy Celtic and Teutonic tribes; but a cap or bonnet (cappan and boined), answering the double purpose of a hat and a helmet, was occasionally worn by their chiefs, as much perhaps for distinction as for defence. Its material was originally leather, and its shape, amongst the Britons and the Irish, conical. The flat cloth bonnet, now worn in Scotland, we do not consider to have formed part of the primitive costume. If ancient, it is of Saxon, Norman, or Danish introduction. A cap, not very dissimilar, occurs in English costume as early as the reign of Henry III.; and one shape, though not the best known, of the Scotch bonnet, bears a curious affinity to the still earlier Phrygian cap worn by the Saxon, the Anglo-Norman, and most probably the Dane. Its colour, blue, was very early distinguished as the favourite colour of the Caledonians, but the chequered band which now generally surrounds it, according to General Stewart,

7 Vide Hamilton Smith's Ancient Costume of England, &c., pi. 21.

Scotch bonnets, from Mr. Logan's work.

Scotch bonnets, from Mr. Logan's work.

originated as lately as Montrose's struggle, when it was assumed as a badge of the fallen family of the Stewarts; the arms of their house being a fess, checquy azure and argent in a field or; in which case we must presume it was originally white and blue. The general colours are now white and red, or red and blue, alterations likely enough to have been made by the victorious party, either then, in the time of Cromwell, when the cross of St. George (gules in a field argent) displaced the royal arms, or in the rebellions of 1716 and 1745, when red and blue had become the colours of the reigning family.

A much older decoration of the bonnet is undoubtedly to be found in the eagle feather, the peculiar mark of a chief, and the sprigs of holly, broom, and other plants assumed by the various clans; a sort of natural heraldry, which supplied the place of the emblazoned shield or embroidered badge, and preceded, it is most probable, the dis tinction of the family tartans. Mr. Logan gives a curious list of the badges of this description appropriated by the different clans; and some of the Frazers and Mackenzies were subjected to penalties for wearing them after the disarming act of 1745.

The chequered stockings, gartered round the - calf of the leg, are assuredly not of Celtic origin. To the Saxon or the Dane, whose cross-garterings and half-stockings or soccas we have described in the second and third chapters of this work, the North- Britons must surely have been indebted for this portion of their attire. The garter, as worn at present, with a rose, is altogether a modern innovation.

The primitive shoes have been described by Froissart from ten thousand specimens. Like the brogue of the Irish and the British esgid, they were made of untanned leather with the hair on. With the modern shoe came the shoe-buckle: its introduction is dated by Mr. Logan about 1680.

The principal ornaments of the Celtic Gael were the brooch and the belt; the first of silver, and sometimes of exceeding magnitude, embellished with cairngorums, and other gems both native and foreign. Bruce's brooch was long, and may be still, in the possession of the MacDougals of Lorn. Another similar relic is in the custody of the Campbells of Glenlyon, and is engraved in Pennant The. belt was also highly ornamented, u 2

principally with silver, from the earliest periods. Ferash or Fergus, a Scottish knight, is described in the Norse account of Haco's expedition as being despoiled of his beautiful belt by the victor.8

To sum up our account of the ancient Highland ' dress in a few words, we see no reason for doubting that it consisted of the mantle, close vest, and trousers, worn by the ancient British and Irish and Belgic Gauls, with scarcely any variation, with the brooch, bodkin, or fibula, the hairy shoes, the belt, and, in the earliest periods, perchance the torque.

The Saxon and Danish fashions by degrees obtained in the Lowlands, and the intermarriages of the English and Scottish royal families, and the long and close alliance between Scotland and France, contributed to assimilate the costume of ( the court and the larger burghs and cities to that which prevailed at the moment throughout Europe. The Gael, or Wild Scots, as they were termed, kept aloof from the despised and detested Sassenachs, or Saxons, as they contemptuously termed their Lowland countrymen who had associated with, imitated the fashions, and adopted the language of the English colonists; and by the imperfect medium of oral tradition alone are we enabled to arrive at the little knowledge we possess of this singular and primitive people. The precise periods, therefore, when slight alterations took place in their national attire, if recorded at all, must be so in their na-« Johnston's translation, p. 99.

tional ballads, or in the retentive memories of their bards and elders.

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